What does the legislation relating to the protection of children and young people do?
The Children's Protection Act 1993 (SA) gives authority to the relevant Department (the Department for Child Protection) to intervene when a child is at risk. This intervention can take several forms, ranging from referring families to appropriate support and services to seeking an order to remove a child from their parents’ care. It is a principal in the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) (the CYPS Act) that children who have been removed should be placed in a safe, nurturing, stable and secure environment. It is preferable for placement to be with a person with whom the child has an existing relationship and that approved carers should be involved in decision making relating to children and young people in their care.
If an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or young person is taken into care, then it is a principle of the CYPS Act that the child or young person be placed in care, in order of priority, with
- a member of their family
- a member of their community who has a relationship of responsibility
- a member of their community
- a person of the child or young person’s cultural background.
When is a child defined as being ‘at risk’?
The Act recognises three types of abuse and/or neglect:
A child is considered to be at risk if there is a significant chance they will suffer serious harm to their physical, psychological or emotional well-being and they do not have proper protection [see s 6(2)]. This risk may be as a result of abuse, neglect or the inability of a parent or guardian to care for and protect a child or to exercise supervision and control over the child. In making an assessment about whether a child is at significant risk or has been abused or neglected attention must be had not only to the current circumstances of the child’s care but also to the history of the child’s care and the likely cumulative effect on the child of that history [s 6(4)].
If a parent is unable (or unwilling) to provide this then the child can be considered to be at risk. A child under the age of 15 with no fixed address will also meet this criterion, as will a child of compulsory school age who has been persistently absent from school without satisfactory explanation.
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